Spinal stenosis is a condition characterized by the narrowing of the space around your spinal cord. This narrowing, or stenosis, applies undue pressure on your nerve roots and can cause leg weakness, back pain, and numbness, among other symptoms. Typically, spinal stenosis is caused by osteoarthritis, abnormal growths, thickened ligaments, trauma, or herniated discs. If the symptoms are mild, they can be addressed through nonsurgical treatments. Surgery may be necessary for severe cases. Below, we look at the different treatment options provided by spinal stenosis Memorial Area specialists.
1. Physical Therapy
Most spinal stenosis treatment regimens begin with and include a physical therapy program. Your doctor will customize an exercise routine designed to help you build tolerance and strength over time. If you find the activity too strenuous, you may begin in a pool where the water’s buoyancy can help you achieve a full range of motion. Over time, the exercise will help you move better by improving your balance and flexibility and strengthening your abdominal and back muscles.
2. Epidural Steroid Injections
Epidural steroid injections are a temporary treatment designed to reduce nerve root inflammation. Your doctor uses a needle guided by contrast dye and fluoroscopy to deliver a corticosteroid into the epidural space in your spinal canal. Although the relief is temporary, it can allow you to stretch, exercise, and better participate in your physical therapy program.
3. Activity Modification
Your doctor may recommend a series of activity modifications designed to limit actions that aggravate your spinal stenosis symptoms. For example, people with lumbar stenosis feel better when they flex forward. In this case, your doctor may advise that you:
- Replace your straight-back seat with a recliner
- Lean forward when riding your stationary bike and cut down on walking as exercise
- Avoid walking upright and instead lean on a shopping cart or walker or bend over
You may also feel more comfortable wearing a back or neck brace. However, this is only feasible for a short period because extended use of a brace can decondition the muscles in your neck or back.
Your doctor may put you on a short-term monitored course of opioids to help alleviate severe spinal stenosis pain. Your prescription may include nerve-desensitizing medications, muscle relaxers, and NSAIDs. However, it is important that you stick to the dosage and instructions provided by your doctor to avoid serious side effects.
If your spinal stenosis symptoms are severe or chronic and don’t respond to other treatments, your doctor may recommend one of the following surgical procedures:
- Spinal Fusion: This procedure stabilizes your spinal cord by locking two or more bones together.
- Discectomy: The doctor makes an incision in your back and extracts the affected part of your disc.
- Laminectomy: Through an incision, the doctor removes or trims anything pressing on your nerves, including ligaments and bone spurs.
Aging can cause many spine-related problems like herniated discs, which could increase your risk of spinal stenosis. Ioannis Skaribas, MD, DABA, FASA a double board-certified pain specialist specializes in treating this and other spinal conditions. If you live in or around Houston, call Expert Pain to learn what Dr. Skaribas can relieve your spinal stenosis symptoms.